Tag Archives: Valentine’s Day

How to choose a diamond ring

Wedding Bells reports that 20% of engagements take place in December, but Valentine’s Day is also a popular time to pop the question. Historically people have used other types of jewelry and gems to propose, but in 2013,  the Jewelry Industry Research Institute reported that 75% of brides wear a diamond ring.

If you propose with a diamond ring, it is largely as a result of a hugely successful advertising campaign from De Beers, one of the largest diamond companies in the world. In 1947 De Beers launched its promotion for diamond engagement rings with the slogan “a diamond is forever.”

Between 1939 and 1979, the company’s marketing budget soared from $200,000 to $10 million per year, according to The Atlantic. Over the same period, its wholesale diamond sales in the United States grew from $23 million to $2.1 billion. Also over the 40 year interval, De Beers went from recommending spending one month’s salary on an engagement ring to two month’s pay.

I was not able to find Canadian data, but according to the Knot’s 2015 Real Weddings Study, Americans spent an average of $5,871 on engagement rings, up from $5,855 in 2014. Wedding bands for the bride and engagement rings combined cost between $5,968 and $6,258.

Each individual must decide how much to budget for an engagement ring, but regardless of the amount you plan to spend, you need to understand what to look for when you are shopping for rings. First of all, the price and value of diamond jewelry is influence by the 4Cs: color, cut, clarity and carat weight.

It is of primary importance when you select stone(s) and a setting that you are dealing with a reputable jeweller. It may also be advisable before you finalize the transaction to have an independent gemologist appraise the stone(s) to ensure you are getting good value.

In addition you should receive a certificate from your jeweler (sometimes called a grading report). This is a complete evaluation of your diamond that has been performed by a qualified professional with the help of special gemological instruments. Each stone bears its own recognizable, individual characteristics, which is listed on the certificate.

Here are some other important things to consider when selecting stones and a setting for an engagement ring.

  1. Understand your partner’s taste in jewelry
    White or yellow gold? Old fashioned or modern? Chunky or delicate? Diamonds only or embellishment with coloured stones?
  2. Ring size
    Borrow a ring he/she already owns and trace the size. You can always have the ring re-sized after you propose but there may be additional cost. Also, who wants to take the ring off and part with it for days or weeks while adjustments are made?
  3. Favourite shape and cut
    Diamonds come in a myriad of cuts ranging from square, round and oval to pear shaped. A diamond’s cutting style refers to its facet arrangement, rather than its shape. The fewer the facets, the more visible any inclusions will be, so a cutting style such as a step cut (a.k.a. emerald cut), for example, requires higher clarity in the diamond.
  4. Setting
    The setting can vary from a solitaire or single stone, to a large stone with small stones on each side to three stones of the same side. A halo stone is where a center stone is surrounded by tiny gemstones  (usually diamonds), to add sparkle and give the appearance of a larger center stone. The setting you select will depend on a combination of preferred style and your budget.

No matter how much you pay for your ring, speak to your home insurance company and decide whether you should have it specifically listed on your policy so it is insured in case of loss or theft.

I lost the pear shaped diamond from my ring at the gym several years ago. In spite of the fact that paying a premium to insure the ring was no fun, I was quite relieved when my policy reimbursed me for the considerable value of the lost stone.


Do you follow blogs with terrific ideas for saving money that haven’t been mentioned in our weekly “Best from the blogosphere?” Share the information on http://wp.me/P1YR2T-JR and your name will be entered in a quarterly draw for a gift card.

Written by Sheryl Smolkin
Sheryl Smolkin LLB., LLM is a retired pension lawyer and President of Sheryl Smolkin & Associates Ltd. For over a decade, she has enjoyed a successful encore career as a freelance writer specializing in retirement, employee benefits and workplace issues. Sheryl and her husband Joel are empty-nesters, residing in Toronto with their cockapoo Rufus.

Romancing your sweetie on a budget

By Sheryl Smolkin

You are still paying off the credit card bills from Christmas. Your SPP and RRSP contributions have to be in before the end of February. You don’t have time to go to the mall and even if you did, you don’t have any idea what to buy.

Four years ago I posted Thrifty ways to romance your valentine. Since then I’ve had lots more ideas. So even if you were planning to stick with the traditional flowers and chocolates, consider some of these ideas as an add-on.

  1.  Sign up for a class he/she has suggested that both of you to take together. It could be for anything from cake decorating to ballroom dancing to couples’ yoga.
  2. Volunteer together at a local homeless shelter, food bank or even the SPCA. Doing something for others will help deepen your own relationship.
  3. Pack a lunch with all kinds of goodies including a beautiful cupcake for dessert. Add a personal, humorous, handwritten note.
  4. Load phone apps that will make life easier and teach your partner how to use them. Also add a romantic picture of the two of you as the wallpaper on his/her phone.
  5. Rerun romantic movies that one of you may never have seen or that you saw together at a special time. Classic examples are: When Harry Met Sally, Sleepless in Seattle, Love Actually and You’ve Got Mail.
  6. Binge watch on Netflix a season or two of a romantic show on a cold winter weekend and plan snacks that fit the theme. Tea and scones with clotted cream and strawberry jam would be a perfect fit for Downton Abbey.
  7. Clean the house, make the beds and do the laundry, all without having to be asked. Give your lover coupons that can be redeemed at a negotiated time for future cleaning services.
  8. Pick a pet together and bring the puppy or kitten home on Valentine’s Day. This assumes you both want a pet and it was just a matter of time until you added one to your family. A red collar and leash would be in keeping with the day.
  9. Plan an active adventure. Take a hike; go skating on an outdoor rink and drink hot chocolate. Snowshoe through the park or toboggan down a hill. Winter is much more bearable when you embrace it instead of constantly trying to avoid it.
  10. Arrange an unexpected visit with a loved one, i.e. a housebound senior, a new grandbaby or your youngest child who is away at college for the first time. Helping to bring lonely people together on or around Valentine’s Day will create unforgettable memories.

Thrifty ways to romance your valentine

By Sheryl Smolkin


St. Valentine’s Day began as a liturgical celebration of one or more early Christian saints named Valentinus. However, the celebration of Saint Valentine did not have any romantic connotations until Chaucer’s poetry about “Valentines” in the 14th century.

Today Valentine’s Day is a huge marketing opportunity for florists, jewellers and the candy industry. As soon as the Christmas decorations come down, malls are decorated with hearts and flowers.

It’s actually rather nice to have something to celebrate when spring is till several months away in most of the country. But if you want to give your loved one roses, chocolates or dinner out at the local hot spot, you may have to pay premium prices in mid-February.

When I was researching romantic, inexpensive Valentine’s Day gifts, I found Sheryl Kurland’s list of 50 Valentine’s Day Gifts for Your Sweetheart (without looking cheap). I’m not much of a “do-it-yourself” person so many of her ideas exceed the time and skills I possess. But here is an edited list of the 10 suggestions I like best:

  1. Make a framed group of photos (or photo collage) of memorable occasions you have celebrated together, in chronological order.
  2. Burn a CD with meaningful music like the first dance at your wedding, songs from musical you saw on your honeymoon and the lullabies that were the only thing that put your baby to sleep.
  3. Leave a love note on your partner’s pillow along with a chocolate truffle or two and a single rose.
  4. Create an in-home spa day for your mate. Put together a basket filled with inexpensive candles, bubble bath, rose petals, facial mask and scrub. Hand her towels warmed in the drier when she is done.
  5. Make a marvellous dinner for two. A home-made steak or lobster dinner is much less expensive than a pricey restaurant meal. And you can never go wrong with traditional cherry cheesecake for desert.
  6. Give your lover Valentine’s Day IOU coupons: I will make dinner. I will do the laundry. I will walk the dog for a week.
  7. Write new “updated” wedding vows, both serious and humorous and share them with each other over a glass of wine in a candlelit room.
  8. Make homemade chocolate-covered strawberries: 1) Melt a package of chocolate chips in a double boiler and add a small amount of oil; 2) Remove from heat and quickly dip the strawberries into the chocolate; 3) Place on wax paper and refrigerate for several hours until chocolate is firm.
  9. Get the kids involved. Help them make cards or print them off the internet. Make a special breakfast including pancakes, waffles or even buttery croissants from the local bakery.
  10. If you don’t have a special sweetheart, focus on bringing a smile or laughter to everyone you come in contact with on Valentine’s Day.

Can you suggest other inexpensive romantic ways to celebrate Valentine’s Day? Send us an email to socialmedia@saskpension.com. If your idea is posted, your name will be entered in a quarterly draw for a gift card. And remember to put a dollar in the retirement savings jar every time you use one of our money-saving ideas.

If you would like to send us other money saving ideas, here are the themes for the next three weeks:

14-Feb Retirement savings Pros & cons of available savings vehicles
21-Feb RRSP/SPP deadline How should you invest your retirement savings?
28-Feb Debt reduction How to eliminate debt

Also see:
Great ideas for Valentine’s Day. Creative. Thoughtful. AND CHEAP!!
100+ great Valentine’s Day ideas